November 5, 2012

Letter to the Editor: Don’t Write Off Fossil Fuels Just Yet

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To the Editor:

Re: “Freak Storms and Fossil Fuels,” Opinion, Oct. 30

In response to your article regarding global warming and the role of “the single minded profit-seeking of the fossil fuel industry” in Hurricane Sandy, I have taken the time to look at the facts.The reality is that large category four and above hurricanes like Galveston of 1900 happened before Rockefeller made his millions and the oil industry boomed. So, to say that oil or the oil industry caused this storm or the severity of this hurricane with examples of hurricanes before this industry ignores the facts. Global warming could be correlated with rising sea levels, but is it possible to say the whole tragedy or even most of it was the result of the fossil fuel industry?Furthermore, our society has a large lack of understanding of how profits are made in the oil industry. The oil industry has made huge strides toward efficiency in the last 25 years. They can produce more oil from one well than they used to from four or five. Fewer wells are a smaller impact on the environment both on and below ground. In addition, refineries run cleaner and safer than ever before. The process has become incredibly more efficient allowing a larger profit margin to be had. That being said, given the volatility of the oil market, these companies must make large profits when the price of oil is high and margins exist. They are a business that relies on a commodity and that is how such businesses sustain themselves.Also, it is important to remember many companies involved in “big oil” are not big at all. Contractors from our country and abroad depend on the industry to feed their children, put them to college, etc. There are many hardworking individuals that work to deliver the energy you need to operate the computer you work at, light the library you study in, to power the television you watch and to print the Cornell Sun itself. Energy drives this country forward. Fossil fuels have provided economic progress to the world, economic progress that has given rise to computers, the internet, cell phones and other means that allow people to communicate with one another, blurring boundaries and allowing people to come together. Ironically, fossil fuels undoubtedly powered televisions and radios that warned millions about the storm and boats and emergency vehicles that saved unknown people.You see, it’s just not as easy as saying fossil fuels are evil. Maybe some at the top are greedy. Some have made mistakes and should be held accountable. We need change, and we all need to work on it. But, we can do it without using the oil industry as a scapegoat for every disaster.Written with electricity provided by the coal plant up the lake,

Brett Provenzano ’13